In the wake of the tragic death of 28 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, we are once again made aware that Westboro Baptist Church is planning to interject themselves into the news. It has been reported that the group plans to attend and picket at the funerals of the victims: “The Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for protesting outside funerals of slain U.S. service members, announced that it will picket a vigil for the victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting”
Unfortunately, this group that perpetuates hate and dissonance is one that is not going away. Choosing to ignore them and their actions is not a solution to stopping their hate speak.
This past weekend, a formal petition to recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group was filed with the White House as part of President Obama’s initiative, We the People: Your Voice In Our Government. In short, We the People allows for American citizens to file a petition to gain awareness for a cause, aiming to make the voices of the American people heard. If the petition garners a minimum of 25,000 signatures, the petition will be brought before the President and a formal response will be made public and on record.
Why is it important for this small group of people to be formally recognized as a hate group? Being labeled as a “hate group” by the federal government gives the FBI permission to track the actions of the group, also allowing for federal charges to be brought against them in instances where the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act laws are broken.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, enacted in 28 U.S.C. § 994 note Sec. 280003, requires the United States Sentencing Commission to increase the penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or gender of any person. In 1995, the Sentencing Commission implemented these guidelines, which only apply to federal crimes. -Wikipedia
More clarification is given by Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist:
Penalty-enhancement hate crime laws are traditionally justified on the grounds that, in Chief Justice Rehnquist’s words, “this conduct is thought to inflict greater individual and societal harm…. bias-motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest.” -Wikipedia
Additionally, the group could be prosecuted under the Civil Rights Act of 1968:
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 enacted 18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2), which permits federal prosecution of anyone who “willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person’s race, color, religion or national origin” because of the victim’s attempt to engage in one of six types of federally protected activities, such as attending school, patronizing a public place/facility, applying for employment, acting as a juror in a state court or voting. -Wikipedia
To read more about the petition, and if you feel it necessary to sign, visit We the People.
Angie Lynch is the founder and managing editor of the powerhouse women’s literary community, Smut Book Club. She is a Native Floridian without a tan, probably because she spends her days hard at work on the magical internet. For the past several years, Angie has worked way too hard at building clout as an influencer in food and margaritas as well as being a source for laughable pop culture commentary. You can read more from Angie on her blog, A Whole Lot of Nothing.